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Cruising guide to New Zealand – where to go

New Zealand cruise vacations resumed in summer 2022, post-Covid – this is everything you need to know about sailing the country.

New Zealand cruises were very popular pre-pandemic and with travel trends showing holidaymakers are keen to go further afield – and for longer  – to make the most of their freedom, Down Under is back on top.

This is everything you need to know about cruising to this wonderful country on the other side of the globe.

Is New Zealand allowing cruise ships in?

Yes, New Zealand is allowing cruise ships in. Restrictions on travellers were slashed on July 31, 2022, as the country announced its ports were open for cruise ships and recreational yachts.

Did you know? Most New Zealand cruise visits take place between the warmer months of October and April.

Pre-pandemic, the Ports of Auckland reported that over 100 cruise ships called into Auckland annually, bringing in more than 300,000 visitors to New Zealand.

Is cruising a good way to see New Zealand?

Cruises around New Zealand are an excellent way to take in the vast country’s main attractions, although to experience the country to its fullest, a cruise and stay vacation is well worth it so you can experience some time inland either before or after your sailing.

Auckland is where most cruises around New Zealand start and finish and boasts shops, restaurants, art galleries and museums (the Auckland Museum and the Auckland Art Gallery are standouts) aplenty, all easily accessible from the dock. Forest parks, volcanic cones and gorgeous beaches are all within reach too.

City stops on cruises around North Island may include Wellington which is brimming with museums and galleries (the national museum of Te Papa is a favourite) as well as boutique shops, trendy cafés and restaurants – Lonely Planet once labelled Wellington “ as the coolest little capital in the world”!

The Bay of Islands is another beloved cruise region, the waters here are teeming with dolphins and other marine life. Cruise ships in Zealand will tender at Waitangi Wharf for all shore excursions, including visits to New Zealand’s first capital, Russell, and the house where the country’s most important document, the Treaty of Waitangi, was signed in 1840.

Other popular cruise areas in New Zealand’s North Island are Gisbourne – a place of rich history where the first Polynesian canoes landed and where Maori and Europeans first encountered each other when Captain James Cook came ashore from the Endeavour here in October 1769. Gisborne is also recognized as the Chardonnay Capital of the World.

There’s Napier (a historic art deco city located in the centre of New Zealand’s oldest wine-making region, Hawke’s Bay); Tauranga (a cool, coastal city with an idyllic beach); and Rotorua (rich in Maori history and a geothermal wonderland with its boiling mud pools, natural hot springs and geysers).

As for the South Island, scenic cruising through Milford and Doubtful Sounds is the best way to see the splendid alpine scenery of Fiordland National Park – think sheer cliffs, majestic waterfalls and beautiful rainforests.

The Marlborough Sounds is another place of stunning natural beauty on cruises around New Zealand, encompassing 1,500 km of coastline, bays, beaches and native forest. Some of the world’s best boating, diving, fishing and hiking can be enjoyed here are there’s oodles of wildlife to look out for, from penguins and fur seals to rare King Shags and dolphins.

There’s also the innovative and fun city of Christchurch – filled with gardens, galleries, markets and museums – and Dunedin, considered New Zealand’s architectural heritage capital. It found fame during the gold rushes of the 1860s and is now filled with Victorian and Edwardian buildings and has a fabulous art and fashion scene.

What is the best time to cruise New Zealand?

New Zealand cruises kick off with the start of the cruising season in October and end in April.

However, the summer months of December through March are best for New Zealand cruise vacations. Temperatures at this time range between 16°C to 24°C and the days are long, bright and sunny.

What cruise lines sail from New Zealand?

The majority of lines cruise New Zealand during the main cruising season, with many calling at Australia, too. Most New Zealand cruises depart from Auckland or Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane in Australia.

Cruises typically visit New Zealand destinations including the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Fiordland as well as Marlborough Sounds and Stewart Island.

Full list of major cruise lines that sail to New Zealand:

Carnival Cruise Lines
Celebrity Cruises
Costa Cruises
Cunard Line
Fred Olsen Cruises
Hapag Lloyd
Holland America Line
Oceania Cruises
P&O Cruises
Princess Cruises
Royal Caribbean
Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Are there cruises around New Zealand?

Cruises between New Zealand and Australia enable travelers to explore the length of both North and South Islands.

However, New Zealand cruises tend to travel up the east coast of the country, perhaps going on to return to Australia or north to visit South Pacific islands, rather than circumnavigating both North and South Islands.

Can you cruise from the UK to New Zealand?

The best way to cruise from the UK to New Zealand is on a world cruise. These sailings can take as long as 150 nights – some cruise ships spend two weeks or more traveling the length of New Zealand while others spend shorter periods calling at just one or two ports.

Otherwise, your best bet for New Zealand cruises is to take a fly cruise which is much more time efficient.

How long does it take to cruise to New Zealand?

Most cruises between Australia and New Zealand last around two weeks.

How much does a cruise to New Zealand cost?

As for how much a cruise to New Zealand is, the answer varies dramatically on your cruise line of choice and when you sail.

For instance, with flights included from the UK, a Princess Cruises voyage sailing from Sydney could cost from around £2,766pp, Royal Caribbean around £2,838 pp, Holland America Line around £3,099 pp and Celebrity Cruises from around £4,199 pp.

A P&O Cruises world cruise, calling at New Zealand, for instance, costs from £10,154

Are the seas rough between Australia and New Zealand?

The Tasman Sea (Named after the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman) between Australia and New Zealand can be very choppy indeed and has become infamous for its rough seas. However, it’s unavoidable if you’re sailing between the two countries on cruises to New Zealand.

Set Sail

New Zealand with Celebrity Cruises

Duration: 12 nights

Where: Sydney, Australia | Milford Sound, New Zealand | Doubtful Sound | Dusky Sound | Dunedin | Christchurch | Wellington | Napier | Tauranga | Auckland | Sydney, Australia

Ship: Celebrity Eclipse

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Published 08.02.22